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Friday , December 30 , 2011
 
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Paperback Pickings

That familiar chill

The other country: Dispatches from the mofussil (Penguin, Rs 350) by Mrinal Pande is a collection of short essays which attempt to bring the small towns and villages of India into the mainstream. Challenging the hegemony of English over vernacular languages, Pande speaks of the Hindi-English divide between small towns and metropolitan cities, of the thousands who swell the readership of vernacular newspapers, and who listen cheerfully to ad campaigns in English without comprehending a word. In her travels as a journalist, Pande also meets some remarkable women — Prabha Devi of Tehri, Uttarakhand, who became a barber in spite of stiff opposition from her community, Aaliya from Haryana who trained to be a boxer, also Gunja from western Uttar Pradesh, who had run away from a forced marriage, taking her baby with her. Stories both tragic and absurd crowd this book. Given its wide sweep of subjects, the compilation seems a bit fragmented at times, held together only by a vague suspicion of big corporations and globalization.

The Newsroom Mafia (Grey Oak, Rs 245) by Oswald Pereira takes you into the gritty world of the Mumbai underworld and the equally gritty one of the newsroom. Chaos is unleashed when a frontpage story about the arrest of a mafia leader misfires and a leading newspaper must undo the damage. Planted news, underworld dons, corrupt policemen and hawkish journalists hungry for a scoop crowd this crime thriller. With the death of a Mumbai crime reporter and the arrest of another journalist accused of passing on information to his murderers still fresh in public memory, Pereira’s story has a chilling ring of truth to it.

For you, my love (Diamond, Rs 100) by Ashok Upadhyay is a tale of love across a shop counter. Dev Khurana, a romantically inclined shop assistant, loses his heart to the mercurial Kanta as she is buying an eyebrow pencil. The very next day finds him “toying with the idea of showing his inner feelings to her” when he nabs her on the road. Over the next few years, his life is turned upside down as Kanta is struck by one calamity after the other. Not that Dev isn’t kept busy in between. He is wooed by the beautiful physicist, Ruby, even as he tells her off for whistling like a “tomboy”, and when a young girl is harassed by thugs outside Victoria Memorial, the gallant Dev’s services are enlisted. The ghost of Bollywood Films Past haunts this somewhat erratically written novel.